Trust Fund

Family who were once richer than the Queen at war over estate millions

Anyone over a certain age will remember the excitement of playing the Pools every week. At one point the Littlewoods football and retail empire family were richer than the Queen. The empire was built by two brothers and sold to the Barclay Brothers for £750 million in 2002. This sale made millionaires of many of the Littlewood family members.

The millions owned by Patricia Moores – daughter of one of the founding brothers – has ignited a furious row between her children. The three children, all aged in their 60s, have been fighting to establish who is entitled to the millions which are tied up in her trust fund. In 1981 Mrs Moores appointed her three children as equal beneficiaries. In 1997 she cut out one of her children, Matthew, who was going through a divorce at the time. The lawyers for Matthew argue that a clause contained in Mrs Moores’ Will overturned the declaration she made in 1997 and the fund should therefore be split three ways. Matthew’s brother, Christian, disagrees and insists Matthew did not have a particularly good relationship with his Mother towards the end of her life and his Mother never intended Matthew to receive a share.

Matthew argues the 1997 declaration was made because he was undergoing a divorce, to protect against assets passing to his spouse within those proceedings. Matthew’s divorce arrangements were finalised in 1998 and Matthew argues Mrs Moore knew this and never intended he would not benefit from a one third share. He also argues there was no cooling of the relationship between him and his mother. His brother Christian argues the opposite and claims there is no evidence to support that his Mother intended Matthew to inherit.

The third child, Rebecca, supports Matthew’s argument.

The Trustees of the Trust Fund have asked the Court to intervene as, despite months of family discussions and negotiations, the family have not been able to agree between themselves how the fund will be split. The Trustees cannot act without being sure they are doing the right thing and everyone agrees.

The situation is so complicated and fractious the Court has yet to make a decision and judgement has been reserved to a later date.

While the numbers involved in the Littlewood dispute are huge, disputes like this happen over much more modest estates. Testators need to be careful if they decide to update earlier provisions because their beneficiaries’ circumstances change. Thought needs to be given to what will happen if they can’t or don’t update their Will or Trust provisions when and if the beneficiaries’ circumstances change back, what do they mean to happen then? Vagueness or not considering all options causes so much angst for surviving family members.

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